Table 13:  Natasha Myers, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Science and Technology Studies, York University

Art Meets Science

Artists and scientists are seeking each other out with increasing frequency to explore the rich possibilities of interdisciplinary inquiry. Art-science convergences and collaborations allow practitioners in both realms to try on each other’s practices and, in the process, explore new ways of seeing the world.

Dr. Myers received her Ph.D. from MIT in 2007 and came to York University in that year.  Her research examines the lively visual cultures that thrive in contemporary life science laboratories and classrooms, with an interest in the artistry, craft, and creativity of scientific work.  She recently completed a manuscript on pedagogy and training in the fields of structural biology and biological engineering called Modeling Proteins, Making Scientists: Cultivating Molecular Vision in the Contemporary Biosciences.  In addition, she has been engaged in art-science collaborations for over a decade, exploring a variety of ways to bring artists and scientists together to seed mutual inspiration.  Her most recent such project was the 2009 Art Meets Science Series at York University, a year-long series of events designed to foster a culture of collaboration among York’s artists and scientists. (


Table 14:  Mel Silverman, M.D., F.R.C.P.(C), Professor of Medicine and Vice President, Research, Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR)

Convergence of Biology and the Physical Sciences: Implications for Education and Medicine

Modern technology is enabling assembly of increasingly large data bases of genes and proteins.  Contained within these datasets is information that describes the molecular interacting networks and signalling pathways necessary for life processes.  These datasets are not yet readily interpretable in a way that clarifies how the constituent bio-molecules work together to carry out normal cellular processes.  A major challenge of modern biology is to decode these datasets, isolate the patterns of interacting components, and analyze the behaviour of their functional networks.  To achieve this level of understanding requires a methodological “tool kit” and conceptual framework provided by the physical, mathematical, and computer sciences, all supported by an infrastructure of high performance computing.  What are the philosophical implications of the convergence of biology and these so-called hard sciences?  How will this impact on education, and ultimately what will be the impact on the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of disease?

In addition to his role at CIFAR, Dr. Silverman is Professor of Medicine at the U of T and Senior Staff Nephrologist at the Toronto General Hospital, UHN.  His research interests concern the molecular physiology of Na+/glucose co-transporter, extracellular matrix–cell signalling in the glomerulus and the pathophysiology of diabetic nephropathy.

Table 15:  Bridget Stutchbury, Ph.D., Professor of Biology and Canada Research Chair in Ecology and Conservation Biology, York University

Conservation Biology Studied Through Birds

Biodiversity is essential for sustaining the world’s ecosystems and the natural services they provide to human society.  Bird species around the world are in severe decline due to habitat loss, pollutants, and climate change.  Are we turning “green” fast enough to save them?

Dr. Stutchbury is a field biologist who has studied bird behaviour and conservation for 25 years, and has followed our migratory songbirds to their wintering grounds in Latin America to understand the threats they face far away.  She is author of Silence of the Songbirds (2007, Governor General’s Award finalist) and a new book The Bird Detective (April 2010). She serves on the Board of Wildlife Preservation Canada and the Conservation and Science Committee of World Wildlife Fund Canada.

Table 16:  David M. Mutch, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Human Health and Nutritional Sciences, University of Guelph

Nutrigenomics: Using Diet-Gene Interactions to Personalize Health Management

Over the past 30 years, obesity has increased to epidemic proportions.  Lifestyle changes (e.g. diet & exercise) remain the most common recommendation for controlling obesity, but the rate of success varies between individuals.  Nutrigenomics is poised to have a considerable impact on the prevention and treatment of obesity by allowing lifestyle modifications to be based on an individual’s personal genetic information.

Dr. Mutch studies the biochemical pathways affected by metabolic diseases, such as obesity and type 2 diabetes, using a number of modern molecular tools that includes the microarray and mass spectrometry.  He also has an active role in the international Metabolomics Society.  He has previously worked at Nestlé in Switzerland, The Scripps Research Institute in California, and the Pierre and Marie Curie University in France.

Table 17:  Bradley White, Ph.D., Professor and Chair, Department of Biology, Canada Research Chair in Genetics, Director of the Natural Resources DNA Profiling and Forensic Centre, Trent University

Wildlife Forensics and Conservation Biology

The enforcement of the statutory protection of wildlife is a key part of conservation programs in Canada and abroad.  Dr. White’s laboratory has provided evidence in well over 1000 cases since 1988, typically comparing DNA profiles from evidence at illegal kill sites with evidence on suspects or meat in freezers.  It has also been involved in human criminal cases, including murders, where its role has been to examine non-human samples, such as leaves, found with a murder victim.   Currently Dr. White’s research is focused on highly endangered species, such as the North Atlantic right whale, and species at risk, such as the eastern wolf in eastern Canada.

Dr. White obtained his B.Sc. in Botany at Nottingham University and his Ph.D. at McMaster University.  His was the first laboratory to use DNA markers to assess parentage in a natural population (snow geese).  He developed the Wildlife DNA Forensic Laboratory to perform analyses primarily for the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, and moved it to Trent in 1997.  In 2001 he was awarded a Canada Research Chair in Conservation Genetics and Biodiversity and formed the Natural Resources DNA Profiling and Forensic Centre as a partnership between Trent and OMNR.

Table 18:  Brock Fenton, Ph.D., Professor of Biology, University of Western Ontario

How do Universities Interact With Society?

Universities grow out of a very long tradition, but their roles are constantly evolving.  Are our expectations of them realistic?  Is strong research essential to good teaching?  What services do universities perform for society?  What is their most important product? 

Since receiving his Ph.D. in 1969 for work on the ecology and behaviour of bats, Dr. Fenton has taught at Carleton University, York University, and the University of Western Ontario.  He has held many academic administrative positions as well as performing much service and having extensive involvement in academic and public science policy matters.  He has published about 200 papers in refereed journals as well as numerous nontechnical contributions.  He has written three books about bats, intended for a general audience (Just Bats (U of T Press,1983); Bats –(Revised edition, 2001, Facts On File Inc.); and The Bat: Wings in the Night Sky ( Key Porter Press, 1998)).   He continues his research on the ecology and behaviour of bats, with special emphasis on echolocation.

Table 19:  Hugh M. P. Couchman, Ph.D., Professor of Physics & Astronomy, McMaster University; Fellow, Canadian Institute for Advanced Research; Scientific Director, SHARCNET

Computing in the Cloud(s)

The purposeful entrance of companies such as Amazon and Google into the Cloud Computing arena has taken what could have become another academic enthusiasm into the mainstream. Will it last?  Will it solve the growing need for computing muscle?   Will it address the growing environmental impacts associated with Information Technology?  And will it finally be the model that turns large-scale computing into a commodity?

Dr. Couchman, an astrophysicist, became involved with the effort to provide large-scale computing for Canadian researchers across many disciplines when Canada’s limited resources imperilled our ability to retain leading computational scientists and to compete internationally.  He is a founder of SHARCNET, the largest provider of high-performance computing services and resources to researchers in Canada, and is a Fellow of the Cosmology and Gravitation programme of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research.

Table 20:  Catherine Zahn, M.D., Professor of Medicine, U of T., President and CEO, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH)

Mental Illness and Addiction as Brain Disorders

For decades, research into the causes and treatments of mental illness and addiction has been polarized between “biological” and “psychological/social” approaches.  Recently, there has been some convergence, recognizing that the brain is disordered but that the affected nervous system interacts with, and is continually shaped by, its environment.  We will discuss whether this is a promising basis for further research on mental illness and addictions.

Dr. Zahn, a graduate of the Faculty of Medicine at the U of T., earned a M.H.Sc. in Health Administration at U of T and has made numerous contributions to health care through leadership in health education and administration, technology assessment, and chronic disease management.  She continues to practice neurology with a focus on epilepsy.

Table 21:  David Pearson, Ph.D., Professor of Earth Sciences, Laurentian University, Co-Director of the Laurentian University / Science North Graduate Program in Science Communication

Engaging the Public in Science Dialogue – Why and How ?

Does it matter that many North Americans don't know whether the Earth orbits around the Sun or the Sun around the Earth ?  Would governments make better decisions if the public were involved in the policy process?  Would individuals make better choices if they understood more science?  Can, and should, governments engage the public in a dialogue about science issues such as climate change or genetically modified organisms ?

Dr. Pearson, the founding Director of Science North, has hosted two television series and for 15 years was heard every week in the Radio Lab of CBC Northern Ontario.  He was Co-Chair of the Expert Panel on Adapting to Climate Change that reported to the Government of Ontario in November 2009, and is Chair of Ontario's Science Advisory Panel for the Far North.  In 2003 he received the Royal Society of Canada's McNeil Medal for the Public Awareness of Science.

Table 22:  Christopher Yip, Ph.D., Professor in the Departments of Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry, Biochemistry, and the Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering, U of T

Building Bridges: Linking Engineering With Biology

Engineering and biology have a rich history together.  Let’s explore some of the challenges and opportunities that are now arising at the interface between these two fields and see how new advances in engineering, chemistry, and physics are providing novel insights into biological processes, structures, and phenomena.  At the same time, let’s see how the complexity of biology is challenging the engineering discipline.

A Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Dr. Yip is a Canada Research Chair with interests in the field of single molecule biophysics, molecular imaging, and molecular self-assembly.

Table 23: Diane Nalini de Kerckhove, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Physics, University of Guelph; Singer, songwriter, producer

Singing about science and dancing about architecture

Frank Zappa once dismissed music criticism, saying that “Talking about music is like dancing about architecture…”  But why shouldn’t we dance about architecture?  Or make music about science?  Can art give us new perspectives on science, and can science inform the making of art?

Diane Nalini de Kerckhove is building Canada’s first one-micron nuclear microprobe.  She obtained her doctorate from the University of Oxford on a Rhodes Scholarship.  Diane is also a professional jazz singer and songwriter.  She has been interviewed several times about her dual careers on programs like “The Sunday Edition” and “Metro Morning,” and in print in Maclean’s Magazine and the Globe and Mail.  Her third CD, “Songs of Sweet Fire,” featured her original jazz and folk settings of songs from Shakespeare’s plays.  Her most recent album, “Kiss Me Like That,” is a collection of jazz standards and original songs inspired by her ongoing fascination with astronomy and the stars.  For song samples, visit

Table 24:  Christopher Wynder, Ph.D., Canada Research Chair in Stem Cell Epigenetics, McMaster Stem Cell and Cancer Institute, McMaster University

Autism and Epigenetics; What Do We Really Know?

Dr. Wynder’s laboratory studies what role epigenetics plays in the biology of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and childhood brain cancer.  Epigenetics is the study of heritable changes in gene function that occur without a change in the DNA sequence.  Epigenetic mechanisms are manifest through small chemical changes to a class of proteins called histones or to similar changes to the DNA building blocks.  While each disorder/disease is unique, there are some common features mediated by epigenetic regulation between ASD and brain cancer.  How does epigenetic regulation participate in brain development, and how is epigenetic regulation disrupted to cause changes to the brain cells indicative of either autism or cancer?

Dr. Wynder studies how epigenetics affects brain development. This is a topic close to his heart, since he has a learning disability himself.  Dr. Wynder returned to his native Canada after successful training at the prestigious The Rockefeller University in New York City and The Wistar Institute in Philadelphia.  His work has been internationally acknowledged by his peers as a novel and interesting direction for epigenetic research.

Table 25:  Mark Lievonen, F.C.A., President, Sanofi Pasteur Limited

Canadian Vaccine Capability: Collaborating for Continued Success

Canada has a history of global leadership in vaccine research, development and manufacturing.  Emerging and existing infectious disease threats have focused attention on the important role of vaccines in protecting public health.  A robust national network of vaccine researchers and experts have responded to emerging threats including SARS and the recent influenza pandemic.  There is an opportunity for Canada to build upon this legacy to increase investments in R&D and manufacturing infrastructure, support health care innovation, and drive economic growth and investment in the health of Canadians and people around the world.

Mr. Lievonen holds an M.B.A. from York University.  He is a member of the Board of Directors of Oncolytics Biotech Inc. and the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research.  He was a member of the Board of the Ontario Genomics Institute where he served as Chair from 2004-2008.  He has also served on a number of industry boards and councils such as BIOTECanada, where he was Chair from 2000 to May 2003, and on the BIOCouncil, an advisory group to the Government of Ontario in biotechnology.  Mr. Lievonen was the recipient of a Queen's Golden Jubilee Medallion in 2002 and was named a Chevalier de l'Ordre National de Mérite by the government of France in 2007.  He was elected a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ontario in 2009.

Gala 2010 - Tables and Topics

(Thursday April 22 at MaRS)

There were 25 tables.  Here are Tables 13 to 25.

For Tables 1 to 12, go HERE

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Tickets are $250 each.  To order, or for more information, go HERE